Various Artists

The Ultimate Hits of the 90s

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The compilers of hits collections tend to lean toward hyperbole in their titles, when they don't fall right over into lying. So, perhaps we shouldn't be too hard on a pleasant-enough budget-priced album called The Ultimate Hits of the 90s, even though, to be strictly accurate, it would have to be called something like "A Bunch of Miscellaneous Hits from the early '90s." All but one of the 18 tracks was a Top Ten hit, the exception being Marcia Griffiths' terrific reggae update "Electric Boogie," which was only a minor chart entry. If we were to judge the first half of the '90s in pop music by this collection, we would have to say that, while some entertaining music was being made, things were in a rut. The closest the collection comes to touching on the alternative rock revolution that dominated the period is the Spin Doctors' "Two Princes," which is not all that close, actually. The closest it comes to the rap/hip-hop style that constituted some of the most provocative music of the period is Tag Team's "Whoomp! (There It Is)," which seems even more of a novelty than it did before. But Martha Wash remains thrilling on C+C Music Factory's "Gonna Make You Sweat"; Alannah Myles' "Black Velvet" still sounds like the start of a brilliant career in rock, even if it didn't happen; and Luther Vandross' "Power of Love/Love Power" is still one of the highlights in a brilliant career, the very consistency of which causes him to be underrated. And if you were just starting to listen to pop music in the early '90s, there are probably a couple of other songs here that coincided with events in your life, memories of which can be triggered by hearing them again. It's never too early to be nostalgic.

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